Not guilty! Off-duty officer found to be justified in shooting of a knife-wielding man in Virginia


CHESAPEAKE, VA – An off-duty Norfolk Police Officer who fatally shot a man in January 2020 has been found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter. While a jury determined the officer fired in self-defense, the suspect’s family claims he was only exonerated due to being white.

In January 2020, off-duty Norfolk Police Officer Edmund “Ryan” Hoyt, a military veteran, had his life changed in an instant after he received a traumatic call from his wife and two daughters who had gone to a nearby grocery store. His wife, panicked, told him that someone had just threatened to stab them.

Ofc. Hoyt rushed to the aid of his wife and daughter and ended up confronting the suspect in the case, 42-year-old Kelvin White. During the encounter, a jury determined that the officer acted in self-defense after being attacked with a knife when he shot and killed the suspect.

Despite the jury’s decision, facts, and evidence in the case, White’s brother, Gerard White, claims Ofc. Hoyt’s acquittal is merely because he is white and his brother is black. Gerard claims that Ofc. Hoyt escalated the situation by confronting his brother, who has a history of paranoid schizophrenia. Gerard told The Virginian-Pilot that he and his family believe the jury’s decision was “racially biased.” He said:

“This was not justice. It was murder. This is just another white male who got off scot-free for killing a black man…In my eyes, the family and friend’s eyes, he will always be a murderer that was set free based on his race and because he is a police officer.”

Gerald notes:

“Mental illness is a strong thing and the police department – they’re trained for those things. So, I believe that [Ofc. Hoyt] came out there with intent to do what he done.”

While it is true that police departments nationwide receive training sessions on mental illness and how to de-escalate situations, what Gerald fails to recognize is in an armed conflict, sometimes de-escalation is not possible.

A jury determined if Ofc. Hoyt had taken any other action he would have been seriously injured or killed.

This is not the first time that Ofc. Hoyt has faced a jury over the shooting incident. The first time prosecutors tried the case, in August, it was declared a mistrial after nine hours of deliberations.

During the trials, a jury determined that Ofc. Hoyt did as many parents would have done, especially as an off-duty police officer when he rushed to ensure the safety of his family after receiving the panicked phone call from his wife.

Ofc. Hoyt, who testified in his court proceedings that he thought his wife said she had been stabbed in the face during the phone call, encountered the suspect, 42-year-old Kelvin White when he got to the grocery store.

Ofc. Hoyt found White who was wearing a backpack stuffed with books on the front of him as a makeshift bullet-resistant vest. When Ofc. Hoyt confronted White, and he identified himself as a police officer, something verified by witnesses at the scene.

Based on believing White was armed with a knife and had potentially stabbed his wife, drew his firearm and ordered White, a 6 foot 1, 285-pound man, to the ground for his safety.

Witnesses and Ofc. Hoyt reported White refused to get onto the ground which prompted the officer to holster his firearm and attempt to subdue White, despite being only 5 foot 7 and 150 pounds.

While Ofc. Hoyt was attempting to take White to the ground, the suspect retrieved a knife and attempted to stab him, but only scratched his face with the deadly weapon. Ofc. Hoyt reacted in the only way that he could, according to the jury’s decision, by protecting himself with deadly force.

Ofc. Hoyt reported firing his weapon several times before the threat was finally stopped. Investigative reports show that White was struck twice in the side and once in the back. Five rounds that were fired went into the stack of books, but only two of those penetrated through the first two books in the stack.

After the jury’s decision, Mario Lorello, the officer’s defense attorney, praised the decision, noting that the case was “always a clear case of self-defense and defense of a family.” Lorello said:

“The jury’s unanimous verdict recognized that Mr. Hoyt had a right to defend both his family and himself in the face of this very real danger…The jury saw the case and the evidence for what it was: a husband and a father rushing out to his terrified wife just around the corner after a man approached her and her children and threatened to stab her in the face.”

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